Billie Eilish’s latest album, “Happier than ever,” It’s a pretty quiet affair – acoustic ballads, soaring tunes, slanted tunes, even some obscure bossa nova – so it’s worth wondering how stuff like this comes to will convey on the arenas the 20-year-old pop phenom is playing on her Happier Than Ever: World Tour. But the nearly 20,000 frenzied fans shouting every word during her triumphant Madison Square Garden concert on Saturday night proved that, at least when they’re performing live, there’s no such thing as a soothing song by Billie Eilish.
In the second of these two head-to-head Garden shows, Eilish commands every inch of the stage like a hyperactive court jester. In the more macabre hits from her 2019 album, “When We All Fall asleep, Where Do We Go?” like “Bad Guy” and “Bury a Friend,” her signature mischievous gaze extends to the cheap chairs. Eilish wears her jet-black hair in high pigtails and, to make it possible for her to walk almost continuously, wears sneakers, cycling shorts and an oversized patterned t-shirt. The effect is a cross between Harley Quinn, Minnie Mouse and Glenn Danzig.
Early in the movie, she’s laid out the only basic rule of the night: “Have fun, bitch.” She later expressed gratitude that the crowd was present and alive, but never directly mentioned the pandemic. For nearly two hours, the arena was an outlet where the only dangers lurking were the powerful figures who haunt Eilish’s songs – men she disarms with her hands while the crowd chanted back every word of the barbed kiss “Therefore, I am” and sat reveling. as she strummed “Your Strength”.
The film is minimally decorated – the only other musicians on stage are drummer Andrew Marshall and Eilish’s multi-instrumental brother Finneas – but visually appealing and technical projections Numbers have turned it from a nighttime highway into a fiery hellscape. It’s a credit to Eilish’s charismatic stage presence that she rarely needs such augmented reality to make an impact. She jumped and stomped down a narrow catwalk that bisected the floor space and strode across the center of the stage, which became an upside-down plane into which she tumbled like a playground slide at the end of the show. .
But Eilish’s most impressive achievement is the way she animates and electrifies some of the lighter content in “Happier Than Ever”. “Goldwing,” one of the album’s most puzzling moments, is transformed into a kinetic call and answer number. The soft diss tracks “I Did not Change My Number” and “Lost Cause” became hard-hitting, crowd-pleasing hits. Even the subtly sexy “Billie Bossa Nova” turned into a lustful maniac, as several fans tossed bras onto the stage and Eilish playfully slung one of them over her shoulder.
It is expected that the video accompanying that song includes a series of faceless, naked dancing bodies – sexualized in the abstract, rather than focusing on the performer himself. Last May, Eilish kicked off her “Happier Than Ever” phase with what appeared to be an image change of hers, dyeing her hair bombshell blonde and posing in a corset hug on the cover of British Vogue. It’s worth noting that she abandoned this aesthetic during the promotional tour for the same album, opting again for dyed hair and the signature baggy silhouette of the “Bad Guy” era to allow her to move freely on stage.
Throughout the night, Eilish navigates the crowd like a life-loving yoga instructor. She tells us when to sit, when to put down the phone to live in the moment (a recent arena pop concert), when to “go crazy”. The only low point in the staging was when she was lifted over a hydraulic crane towards the back of the gymnasium for a couple of tracks. It may have allowed some audiences to get a closer look at her, but it also limited her movements, and demonstrated just how much Eilish’s nonstop jumping around means to her energy. infectious amount in her performance. Some of her older material, especially the 2017 ballad “Idontwannabeyouanymore,” feels awkward to be included in the set list, even if it serves as a reminder of how much she has cultivated. how quickly and how precious his talents were in just a few short years.
The night ended without an encore on an explosive high note, as Eilish wisely saved the ending for the shape-shifting title track from “Happier Than Ever”. The song is perhaps the most dramatic example in Eilish’s catalog of his penchant for playing around with volume and dynamics. “Happier than Ever” begins as a softly plucked ukulele – made even more poetic by the bougainvillea slowly drifting down from the Garden’s rafters – and then transforms into an emotional opera. touch like thunder.
But an even more painful moment came in a much quieter song. As Eilish sings the opening credits to her latest album, “Getting Older,” a home video of her and Finneas’ childhood is shown on the big screen at the back of the stage. In the second verse, her voice broke and she burst into tears. “You all just saw me cry, it’s embarrassing,” she said after the song was completed. “Seeing myself as a kid and then seeing Madison Square Garden just made me cry.” But it’s not something to be ashamed of, and is in fact an expression of the discordant relationship Eilish has cultivated with her fans: Such intimate expressions of emotion are, after all, a much of what makes them fill all those seats.
Happier Than Ever: The World Tour
Billie Eilish will perform at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, on Tuesday; billieeilish.com/tour.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/20/arts/music/billie-eilish-happier-than-ever-tour-review.html At Billie Eilish’s Arena Show, The Only Scene Is Yourself